2015 NBA Conference Championship Picks

D. Gulley for the Shop Report with my picks for the 2015 NBA Conference championships. Let’s get right to it.

Western Conference Finals

(1) Golden State Warriors (67-15) vs (2) Houston Rockets (56-26)

Let’s quickly get the obvious out of the way.  The Warriors bring 2015 league MVP Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and a high tempo offense.  The Rockets counter with MVP runner-up James Harden, Dwight Howard and an ever-resilient Rockets team with inside-outside versatility.

Now let’s get to the unknown…

The Warriors have been surprisingly the best team in the league from wire to wire in the regular season with a first year coach Steve Kerr.  Offense gets the glory but defense wins championships, and the Warriors are a thickly veiled defensive juggernaut.  Teams shoot worst overall against the Warriors than anyone else, and teams shoot fifth-worst from 3 point land, thank Andre Iguoldala and Harrison Barnes for this.  Both the Warriors and Rockets collect rebounds as effectively as one another, which gets lost under the lights of the shooting prowess let by Curry and Thompson.  The Warriors are sixth in the league in steals, which turn into extra possessions, and extra points. Most surprising is the Warriors are second in the league in blocks while Dwight Howard and Josh Smith and company are a respectable tenth in the league.  Consider this, the Warriors went through the Pelicans featuring Anthony Davis, and the “Grind House” Grizzles, teams with an inside presence if nothing else, and beat them soundly to advance to this point.  Clearly, the Warriors can win the inside game, now they must face a team with both an inside and outside presence featuring Harden and Howard.  A lot of attention gets made to James Harden’s disinterest in playing defense, but he averages nearly 2 steals per game and 1.5 in the playoffs.  Needless to say, Harden is the straw that stirs the drink for the Rockets’ offense, and Dwight Howard is the ice that keeps it cool.  The dual threat of an interior and exterior presence that will test the dexterity of the Warriors defensively.  The Rockets, however, survived a pressure cooker of facing elimination and winning, coming from a 3-1 deficit against the Clippers.  This is a tremendous effort, enough that lacking home court advantage is not a problem for the Rockets.

All in all, the Warriors have what it will take to advance to the NBA Finals because the depth of their offensive contributions and stealthily stellar defense.

PICK: GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Eastern Conference Finals

(1) Atlanta Hawks (60-22) vs (2) Cleveland Cavaliers (53-29)

The Atlanta Hawks arrive with the Eastern Conference’s best record but not the conference’s best talent (arguably).  I’m certain they beg to differ.  Unfortunately, team sports are most identified by singular star power, and the Hawks are the case in point.  But 60 times this season, their opposition recognized just who they were.  On the season, the Hawks lack a single 20-point scorer, with power forward Paul Millsap averaging 16.7 points followed by center Al Horford with 15.9 points.  Small forward DeMarre Carroll at 17.1 points actually has the Hawks’ highest scoring average in the playoffs.  Night in and night out, Hawks veteran shooting guard Kyle Korver proves to be a problem for teams that don’t account for him.  Only the Golden State Warriors have more assists on the year than the Hawks, that means everyone is a part of their success; the whole is greater than the sum total of its parts.  It is in this fashion that he Hawks have been referred to has the Spurs-East.  And it will take every bit of the collective effort to beat the Cavs.  What’s special about both the Hawks and the Cavs is that they do not send teams to the charity stripe a lot, as they are second and first respectively in free throw attempts allowed.  Key for the Hawks is that they force turnovers and are fifth in points allowed, this is where they’re most Spurs-like.

Now about they’re opposition…

The Cleveland Cavs are as bi-polar a team as you can get.  Due to trades and injuries, they are not at all the same team that started the season and held a losing record at one point in January.  Featuring LBJ, arguably the best overall player in the league and Kyrie Irving emerging as a dual first or second option on offense, they are easily the toughest matchup the Hawks will face in the playoff run (save a potential matchup with the Warriors).  What stymies most of the Cavs competition, is that they refuse (or fail) to allow Lebron James to be a factor while containing the others, making him as deadly a threat as ever.  This is compounded by Timofey Mozgov at center and J.R. Smith at guard who are capable third and fourth scoring options at all times.  Last, and most certainly not least, Iman Shumpert embraces on the ball defense which he has been lauded for since he arrived in the league only 3 seasons ago.

Key to this series is understanding the moment, and the emotions therein.  This is an advantage that the Cavaliers have because of Lebron James – like him or not.  Tangibly, the ability to rely on a clutch scorer, or volume scorer is yet another advantage that the Cavaliers hold, though the Hawks have been successful at times in their regular season matchup.  The Cavs bring more to the table than the Hawks and I would therefore be pleasantly surprised to see the Hawks emerge in this series.  Alas, this is about what I expect, not what I would be surprised to see, therefore look for the Cavs to win.

PICK: CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

We’ll surely be back with the NBA Finals preview, stay tuned.

A woman coach is hired; It’s About TIME!

…This should be the response to anyone who finds it noteworthy that a woman has been hired as a coach (assistant be damned) for an NBA franchise.  Becky Hammon, the new assistant coach for the 2014 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs, should be congratulated for being selected to the premier coaching staff of sports, not simply because she’s the first female on a sideline not named Violet Palmer or Beyoncé Knowles-Carter.  The fact that this is groundbreaking in 2014 should be appalling – not lauded; women have long proven themselves to possess the acumen to be successful leaders of women and men alike for quite some time (reference Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Oprah Winfrey, Chancellor Angela Merkel or a well-mannered child raised by a single mother in your neighborhood).

Coaching has absolutely nothing to do with ability, and everything to do with mentoring, analyzing and creating opportunities for players on the court.  It is accessing the game and developing methods to succeed at that game.  Becky Hammon stated this herself, “But when it comes to things of the mind, things like coaching, game-planning, coming up with offensive and defensive schemes, there’s no reason why a woman couldn’t be in the mix and shouldn’t be in the mix.”  Mental aptitude in a sports game is not – nor has ever been – gender specific.  Moreover, the NBA has plenty of male coaches who exemplify the adage that “those who can’t do, teach”.  Rick Carlisle, Doc Rivers and former NBA coach Larry Brown – with successful tenures and 4 NBA titles as coach between them – were measurably better drawing up plays from the sidelines than wearing a jersey.  Meanwhile, the struggles of Isaiah Thomas and Michael Jordan as mentor/coach/GM/Owner are in stark contrast to their careers on the court.

The Spurs, with their mix of young and seasoned talent, are the definition of precision basketball.  In 2013-2014, the Spurs boasted – rather did not boast about – just four entries in the top ten for any major statistical category (blocks, blocks per Game, three-point percentage and steals).  As a team, the Spurs shot and assist percentages, combined with their lack of offensive rebounds as well as low number of team fouls solidify that they clearly are the masters of execution and smart play.  Precision like this befits a team that does not have a player with the physical presence of an LBJ, KD or D12, akin to WNBA players who overall lack the physical presence of their male counterparts, even of their own contemporaries.  This is why the women’s game is more fundamentally sound.  This is why Becky Hammon is already prepared to excel; she transitioned from a head smart player to a coach on a team with a similar approach to the game.  Her gender will not be the reason why she fails or succeeds; it’s her ability to understand basketball.  The Spurs have a history of acquiring talent who understand basketball, and this is why sustained success remains in the forecast for the Spurs by adding Becky.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Milwaukee Bucks

At 37 wins and 43 losses, the Milwaukee Bucks having the 8th seed in this year’s playoffs is more formality than deservingly. NBA rules say that there must be 8 teams’ in both conferences to make the season ending tournament. Because the Sixers, Cavs, Pistons, Raptors, Wizards, Magic, and Bobcats are all so bad, the Bucks get a free pass. How does a team with a losing record make the playoffs at all? Even from a statistical standpoint I can’t figure out how to make a case for the Bucks that would give them any chance against the Heat in a first round matchup. This team is 20th in points allowed (100.4/per) and 12th in points for (98.8/per); what chance do the Bucks have realistically against any team if they can’t score enough, and can’t stop the other team from scoring too many? Not to mention a league rank 10th in the turnover dept. The Heat should be allowed a first round by instead of having to play the Bucks; the Bucks are not worthy of being called a basketball team let alone a playoff team.

The Bucks do have 5 players’ who average double digits in points per; Monta Ellis (19.2), Brandon Jennings (17.6), Ersan Ilyasova (13.2), J.J. Redick (12.0), and Mike Dunleavy (10.4) can all put the ball in the basket, but it all seems to be perimeter oriented. At times Jennings and Ellis will put the ball on the floor and get to the basket, but of the five aforementioned, Jennings, Ilyasova, and Dunleavy shoot better than 36% from the three. Can’t win in the playoffs being to jumpshot heavy; especially when those shots are long three’s. Long jumpshots lead to long misses and fastbreak oppportunities for the opposition. The Heat will feast on any and all runouts going the other way.

Despite the no chance at all proclamation I put forth when the Bucks play the Heat, there is one area for this Buck team that is worthy of mention and is a mandatory criterion for playoff basketball- offensive rebounding. It makes no sense to me how this team is ranked number 2 in both offensive (1033) and defensive (2475) rebounds with 43 losses on the season. Whether you agree with me or not, there is a direct correlation between the two. Teams’ who rebound the ball well -especially offensive- usually have a winning record.

Stern should insitute an NBA rule that disallows a team to make the playoffs if said team has a below .500 overall record. If only for this season, Stern should allow the loser of the 8th spot in the Western conference to take the place of the winner of the 8th spot in the East. I guarantee the Lakers’ or Jazz would make for a better series against the Heat than Milwaukee. Instead of playing to their strength that is rebounding and punishing the Heat on the inside, the Bucks will settle for jumpshots on the outside. Playing harder and not smarter is a recipe for disaster; a disaster that is the Milwaukee Bucks.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets are flat out garbage. Ok maybe not garbage, but their play more often than not flat out stinks. I know the Nets’ are sittin’ pretty right about now in the number 4 spot in the East, but that’s primarily because the Eastern conference as whole is nothing to really get excited about. Surprisingly, they have a better road record (16-15) than the Indiana Pacers who sit at number 2 in the East, but are average against the division at 6-6. That tells me the Nets’ have somewhat feasted on the “bottom feeders” of the league.

It’s the style of play from some of their household name players that bother me most. Too often do they play as individuals and not as a team. This is a recipe for a first round exit I guarantee; with their roster it makes no sense to me.

Joe Johnson disturbs me the most. In part because he played under legendary Arkansas Razorback coach Nolan Ricardson (my favorite college team) who’s “40-minutes of hell” philosophy- I thought- should have given Joe the foundation for being a complete player; which clearly he is not. Secondly, a player with his pedigree and ability who can play both small forward and shooting guard should not be on his fourth different team (Celtics,Suns,Hawks) in 11+ years. Did I mention he is a 6x All-Star? How do you not stick? I expect more from him than 16.6 per. Oh no, here comes king of the iso!!

Brook Lopez is a true center and the team’s leading scorer at 18.8 per, but is slow and cloddy to say the least. At times, it takes him a few days to get a shot up at the rim. He needs to be stronger if not quicker around the basket. Guys like Bosh,Tyson Chandler, and Noah will eat him alive on the inside.

Deron Williams is a diva. Being the so called quaterback on the team, his play is to inconsistent for the Nets’ to have any real shot this year-or any year- at a title. If his jumpshot is not fallin’ he gets lost in the sauce. In my opinion he’s one of the most overrated players at any position in the NBA.

Gerald Wallace is one of my all time favorite players because of his hustle and tenacity. It’s unfortunate that he’s on the downside of his career. He’s going to have to do more than 8.4 if the Nets’ have any chance of getting out of the first round. What’s worse, he’s the only player who’ll give a sincere effort on the defensive end of the floor.

Andray Blatche is an interesting piece the Nets’ have. Although he’s not really lighting it up on the scoreboard (10.1/per), he does bring an energy on both ends of the floor that are mandatory for playoff basketball. Will he maintain that energy if he starts to see his counterparts playing disinterested? We’ll have to wait and see.

Kris “Kardashian” Humphries scored more with Kim than he has this season, averaging a paltry 5.5 per. What, if anything does he do well? You tell me and we’ll both know.

Reggie Evans is leading the team in rebounding (621) on the season, but to me is better at using his 6 fouls a game. He is so putrid on the offensive side of the floor, the Nets’ can’t even use him like the Clippers’ use DeAndre Jordan.

Because they have virtually no bench production to speak of, I don’t see the Nets’ winning more than 2 games in the upcoming playoffs no matter who they face in the first round. I also won’t be shocked if someone else “Sprewells” Carlesimo before the season ends.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Denver Nuggets

Did you know there once was a time in the NBA where if a player was fouled in the backcourt that player was then awarded 2 free-throws? Which is a testament to defense being a high priority in those days. While it’s not okay that defense in today’s NBA is played with an old school flavor by a select few, what is okay by today’s standards is a team like the Denver Nuggets being made to play 20 of it’s first 31 games (this season) on the road because of the money grubbing, headlining powers that be… who feel as though it’s better for the basketball fan to see… all home games national-lee… played by the front runners down in Mia-mee. More on this subject later. Right now it’s about the Denver Nuggets and why they could be one of the most dangerous teams in the 2013 playoffs.

If I told you the Nuggets have the 2nd best record behind OKC in the Northwest division (30-18), and are 6th best in the NBA overall, suggesting I have my head examined by a medical professional would be good advice if none of what I just were true.

Winners’ of their last 6, these Nuggets’ put some serious lumps on the foreheads of a few 2013 playoff contenders; knocking off the James Harden led Rockets (twice), the Finals repeat shoo-in Thunder (according to many), and the fastly up and coming Warriors’ during that span. This doesn’t mean that the Nuggets’ are completely cured of their bad habit of “stock market-itis”, where one minute they look like the green arrow pointing up, and the next minute looking like the red arrow pointing down. They do however look like a team that if the playoffs started today could knock off the clippers’ in a first round series. Which would be shocking to most of the basketball world except me.

Unlike years’ past, I don’t recall the Nuggets having a player on the roster who plays with the ferocity and relentlessness of a Kenneth “The Manimal” Faried, or an Andre Iguodala who seems to have finally found the place where his type of game can really flourish. Add to that a JaVale McGee who’s skills are over-shadowed by his ” Shaqtin-a-fool” moments, a “Deadly” Galinari from the outside, the blossoming facilitator Ty Lawson, and Corey Brewer with Wilson Chandler, this could be the year These Nuggets’ go into a second round with people actually placing bets in their favor. This team has more depth than in recent years; better team free-throw shooting and team defense- allowing 100.7 per/g- could lead to an upset of grand porportions and their first ever NBA Finals’ appearance

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Golden State Warriors

Don’t look now, but the Golden State Warriors’ are comin; exactly where and how far once they get there is the question that remains. Whatever the case may be, it has become abundantly clear the decision to make former NBA great Mark Jackson head coach was not only a great move on the part of ownership and management, but also serves notice to the basketball world that these Warrriors’ are no longer brandishing “toy swords.”

For instance, coach Jackson played in the NBA at time when- as i’ve mentioned before- what’s considered a flagrant 2 in today’s NBA would have been a put a band aid on it and get back out there moment during his day. The toughness and attention to defense that he’s brought to this current group of Warriors’ is somewhat similar to what you see in Chicago with Tommy T and the Bulls. The idea is that all 5 guys must play on a string defensively if there is no one player on the team who can do so individually. On offense the shot selections will be done selective and strategically, not helter skelter; with an emphasis on the overall offensive approach being “inside-out”, and not “outside-in.” This is the approach used by teams’ like the Spurs’, Lakers (before D’Antoni), and Celtics. All of which have won numerous titles throughout their existence. It’s not about building for the all important and ever so elusive one, but instead creating a system and mentality that will produce many. Here today, and still here tomorrow is the mindset Jackson is trying to establish. Who else deserves 75% of the credit for David Lee being an All-Star this season? Lee has been a decent statistical player (for the most part) since his arrival to the NBA, but it’s the attention to defense implored by Jackson that has put Lee in his first All-Star uniform.

Because the NBA over saturates the viewing public with only a select few, most people don’t get a chance to see the Warriors’ and the up and coming formidable roster they have put together.

Stephen Curry has become one the league’s most dangerous shooter’s, who at times looks as though he can shoot from anywhere on the floor now that it seems his ankle issues are (for now) a distant memory. Richard Jefferson apparently took a drink from the fountain of youth, because his play in the Bay area has been far better this season than at any time during his stint with the Spurs. Jarret Jack is a throwback; every NBA team should have one. The Dallas Mavericks’ had one in Deshawn Stevenson. The difference being Jack can score- averages a soild 12.4!! His understanding of game tempo is not on the level of CP3, or Rondo, but the fact he has an idea of what it means is invaluable to the Warriors’ come playoff time. Throw in the high basketball I.Q. and dead-eye shooting Klay Thompson with the better than I expected Harrison Barnes, and the rejuvenated Carl Landry to go with the Tom Izzo coached Draymond Green and thorn in your side Brandon Rush, the Warriors’ will be a playoff problem in the West. In a recent matchup against mainstream favorite OKC, the Warriors’ made Durant and Westbrook look like jackers of all shots and makers of none in a 104-99 victory 1/23/12. A game the Thunder led for 3 1/2 quarters with a double digit lead more than once. A healthy Bogut makes for an interesting out come if these 2 meet in the playoffs.

I’m not saying the Warriors’ will win an NBA title this year because playoff experience is a key ingrediant to winning it all. I am saying any team that faces them better not make the same mistake the 1993-94 Seattle SuperSonics did losing to the Denver Nuggets in the first round, or the more recent Denver Broncos to the Baltimore Ravens after being heavy favorites.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Oklahoma City Thunder

I don’t usually deviate from my blog script, but last week’s blog about the L.A. Clippers instead of the Oklahoma City Thunder was, in my estimation, absolutely necessary given the fact both the Clippers’ and Lakers’ are the talk of the town despite OKC holding the best overall record in the NBA at 28-8. It’s not to say OKC is not worthy of conversation, it’s just not Hollywood;- and we all know Hollywood rules!! So they say.

As I just mentioned, the OKC Thunder are a league best 28-8, but I hate to have to be the one to tell you that an NBA Championship is not in the cards for the Thunder this year, and this time it won’t be because of David Stern. This OKC team reminds me-in many ways- like the 2006 Dallas Mavericks. A team that scores in bunches (105.7 per-leads the NBA), shoots well from the 3-pt line(39.6% also 1st-NBA), 1st in ft% at 84%- which is a crucial element come playoff time- and are 3rd overall from the field at 48.9%. These are the types of offensive numbers that can win you a regular season and maybe a playoff round or two, but is it enough to win it all? That’s the million dollar question. Let’s not forget: Live by the jumper, die by the jumper; anyone who watches the NBA knows Durant, Westbrook, and Kevin Martin are all volume shooters!!! No matter how much of an offensive threat a team is, establishing an inside presence and defense are key components to winning a title.

When it comes to rebounding the ball, the numbers are contradictory to say the least. They rank 24th overall in offensive rebounding with 379 (lg avg-417), and 7th in defensive rebounding with 1182. This contradiction gets lost in the fact that OKC is 10th in the league in pts allowed at 96.5. I’m not suggesting that defense is totally absent in OKC, i’m merely pointing out the fact that offensive rebounding deficiency has a funny way of rearing it’s ugly head the further you advance in the playoffs. The game is shortened and slowed down in the playoffs; long jumpshots lead to long run-outs for the other team.

Free-throws are not only playoff crucial, but it’s an area where the Thunder(84%-NBA best) don’t have any worries as long as they can maintain it during the pressure packed moments that each playoff round brings. Despite all the fancy, more games are won/lost at the free-throw line than they are by taking jumpshots. Look it up.

OKC on paper can run/outrun any team that’s put in front of them on any given day. The absence of Ibaka’s 14.3 per/g on the inside, Westbrook’s ability to make good decisions and control “game tempo”, and Durant posting up like Dirk in 2010, will not only have their fans’ “running for the exits”, but send OKC home with another silver medal.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Los Angeles Clippers

If you’re a fan of basketball the way it was intended to be played, the L.A.Clippers’ are the team you must absolutely root for. Not because they just recently completed a league best 17-game win streak, or because they are affectionately referred to as “Lob City”, nor the fact that they are 4th in pts allowed (93.1) and 7th in pts scored (101.9); You must root for this team simply because of Chris Paul.

I have always said that no matter how much scoring is increased and dunks are lauded, in order to win an NBA Title a team must have a facilitator, and Paul fits the description to a tee. For all you stat geeks, Paul is 48%fg, 89%ft, 91stl(thru 35 gms), 104 d-reb — yeah, defensive reb!!–, 326ast, and 199 3-pt att; which tells me he’s selective and not just jackin’ em up.

The question remains, can the Clippers win come playoff time? Yes. As long as Paul stays healthy. More important to me than numbers is Paul’s ability to control tempo on both ends of the floor and keeping everyone else in their natural order. While most NBA fans were marveling at the 17- game win streak, I was more impressed with how Paul was determined to let the Warriors’ know that there would be no ” 3rd time’s a charm” after losing twice to Golden State this season before putting on a clinic in a 115-89 victory this past Saturday. Avenging the losses to the Warriors’ mattered more to Paul than the fantastic win streak; that’s the mindset mandatory for the playoffs.

The Clippers’ will go as far as Paul takes them; hopefully to a new building next year if nothing else. They’ve clearly outgrown the Staples Center.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Los Angeles Lakers

I’ve been doing NBA Season reviews for quite some time. But until now, it was prior to that particular season; not during. I know people get tired of hearing me say it, but there used to be a time when the NBA had enough substance where you could give an opinion on how well (or bad) a team, or a group of teams would fare before the season started and pretty much be right on the money at seasons’ end. Because today’s brand of NBA basketball is so bad (in my opinion), I now find it better to wait at least 20 games in before even attempting to predict who will or won’t be a legitimate contender come tournament time. 

Now that the 2012-13 NBA season is well underway, I figured now was as good a time as any to give my take on which teams’ are– or not– legit once playoff time rolls around. For you see, what a team does in the regular season can be misleading  when trying to predict the outcome of a 7-game series. Therefore, I have compiled a list of only the teams who- in my estimation- will occupy the top 8-playoff spots in both the East and West, and how those teams’ will be seeded. Previewing the “bottom feeders” (Cavs,Wizards,Bobcats..) is a complete waste of time. Playoff seeding in parenthesis.

Up first, L.A. Lakers (6th): Now that Steve Nash is back in the lineup, KBGreat (24/8) can now eliminate the physical and mental strain -especially at this point in his career- of having to do it all himself. Having a healthy Nash allows for KB to play more off the ball and extend his career in the process. A rested Mamba in the 4th is still a dangerous Mamba. However, this alone is not enough to win the Lakers another title; whether or not the symmetry of Nash, Gasol, Howard, and Kobe will arrive in time to offset the incongruency of D’Antoni’s offensive philosophy as it relates to the roster will determine if another title is in the cards.

The Lakers must also:

Get more from Howard at the free-throw line (51% on 289 att). The inabilty to hit from the line is far more crucial to the outcome of a playoff game than the athletic ability.

Stop giving up so many points to the opposition! Lakers’ rank 24th in points allowed (100.6 per/g), vs. 5th in points for (102.9 per/g). Hard to outscore your way to an NBA Title. Defense used to be a staple – at the Center!

D’Antoni must realize that Gasol and Howard are not the type of “bigs” who are perimeter oriented. Gasol is most effective when used on the elbow in and around the free throw line; which doesn’t allow for congestion in the paint between he and Howard. Mike should do nothing more than call the time outs, let Nash and Kobe do the coaching.

Where’s the bench? Jamison and Hill are not enough.

In the end, there’s enough talent on this Laker squad to garner a 6th seed come playoffs; Father Time may have somethin’ else to say about hoistin another gold ball.

Next week: Oklahoma City Thunder

 

 

 

 

 

Given not Earned

The foul on Kevin Durant in Game 2 of last year’s Finals that should’ve been called, coupled with the fact that Durant- supposedly one of the NBA’s biggest stars- stayed in foul trouble for the entire series, I didn’t think there was much more Stern and the league could do to make me feel like the game I grew to know and love was becoming highly suspect. After watching the Heat lose for the second time this season to the Knicks (both by 20 pts) who were without Carmelo this second go round, I’m now convinced more than ever before that last year’s title was in fact given and not earned.

The sports’ world says the Heat are the best because they have the most talented team in the league; I say they’re the best only in namesake. It’s the zone defenses teams play that allow for luxury spacing not afforded to guys like Jordan, Bird, or Magic when they played. Teams’ like the Spurs’, Knicks, Grizzlies, and Clippers have proven just what kind of squad Miami has because they’re not intimidated. For some strange reason, the Heat are suffering from ” Title-itis” and ” turn it on, turn it off.” Only the Lakers’ were successful at turn it on, turn it off; because Phil was masterful at coaching ego’s.

Growing up, sitting down to watch an NBA game between the Milwaukee Bucks with Terry Cummings, Jack Sikma, Paul Pressey, and Sidney Moncrief vs. the 76ers with Andrew Toney, Charles Barkley, Dr.J, and Mo’ Cheeks was the thing to do. Some might say it was mandatory. Now I watch the NBA cause there’s nothing else to do. It has become a league more concerned with instant gratification and how it looks instead of playing for the purpose of reaching the pinnacle. That’s bad news for the fans’, bad news for the NBA, and bad news for David Stern- all because it was given and not earned.